Episode 15: Mindful Consumption and Minimalism | Paths to Mindfulness

Hello Friends. Jackie and Maria here with a new episode of Becoming Mindful. In this, we discuss how consumerism can lead to mindfulness through mindful consumtion and minimalism. Tune in now. 

Follow the conversation on our social media and let us know how mindfulness has played a part on your journey!

Be well Friends!

Show Notes & Links

Marie Kondo, her KonMari Method and her original book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”

The Minimalists and their book “Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist

Leo Babauta at Zen Habits and especially his book “Ultralight: The Zen Habits Guide to Traveling Light & Living Light”


Maria: Hello and welcome to the Becoming Mindful Podcast. Today we want to talk about minimalism and consumerism. I am Maria,

Jackie: and I am Jackie, and we are becoming mindful.

Maria: All right. Do we wanna do a quick check in?

Jackie: Yeah, let’s do it. How’s your practice going, Maria?

Maria: I think, somehow with the recent changes in weather, I’ve been falling off a little bit.

Maria: I think I need to figure out a way to just incorporate whatever weather it is, and not make that stop me from doing mindfulness practices.

Jackie: Sure. So you’ve also been going outside.

Maria: Yeah, mostly the going outside part and just overall feeling a little bit less motivated because it’s cold. So I just wanna bundle up somewhere or whatever.

Jackie: Yeah, totally. We’ve had a lot of snow and cold bouts lately.

Maria: How about you?

Jackie: It’s going pretty good. Just trying to find little pockets in the day when I can find a few moments here and there. And giving myself permission to do that is, is helping a lot. So I think I said last month too that I have less time to sit down and do a formal practice, but trying to incorporate some mindfulness into all of my daily activities, especially the more repetitive.

Jackie: It’s been going really well, so I’m gonna keep that up and hopefully find those chunks of time again where I can practice a little bit longer.

Maria: Great. All right, let’s dive into the topic. So we wanna talk about another path to mindfulness. And this time we want to talk about minimalism and consumerism. Let’s talk about why that could be a path.

Jackie: Right. I think this is a really good time to talk about it. We’re coming into the holidays -shopping, Black Friday, gifts. Yeah, I think it’s a good time to talk about those spending habits and mindfulness can help you influence how you spend your money and your time this time a year as well as, I guess the whole year, but right now, especially.

Maria: Yeah. Oftentimes we tend to maybe turn towards a more consumer mindset, especially in this time of the year, but in general to fill some sort of void that we are feeling, right?

Maria: Cause maybe we feel that, hey, if we buy these gifts that somehow means something to make us happy or make others more happy. Or I guess maybe like recreating some of this excitement that you had as a child. And I think that can definitely lead to mindfulness when you think about how the consumption of things doesn’t really fill that void. They don’t really give you life much meaning, or at least deeper meaning. And oftentimes you realize at some point that this is not really what makes you happy.

Jackie: Yeah, absolutely. So I think it can go either way. You can see that the things around you aren’t as satisfying as they seem to be when you see ’em in the store before you buy ’em. And that can lead you to wanting to find some kind of practice like mindfulness to change that kind of lifestyle.

Jackie: But I think also anyone who has a mindfulness practice, I think that also comes in the other direction and kind of leads you into minimalism, or less consumerism I should say. Just because when you’re mindful, when you’re more present, when you’re in the moment, a lot of those things that you talked about, like those emotional triggers to purchasing things are either in the past or in the future, who we wanna be, or memories or things like that.

Jackie: And in the present, you know, your experiences matter, the people in front of you matter. That consumerism is lessened. And it’s funny cuz this time of year , as most of us are visiting family, we’re around the people we love and I think we all feel that when we’re in front of people that it’s not about the stuff, but we still have that drive to grab a present and get something for someone and maybe shop those deals and all that stuff. So it’s hard to separate it.

Maria: Yeah, and I guess that’s also where mindfulness comes in because if you think about what minimalism means is stripping away of the unnecessary things, the clutter in your life, the things that weigh you down, that are in excess. And that could be anything. It could be possessions, it could be, eating too much, it could be just indulging in habits, social media and minimalism really aims at only keeping those things that are most valuable for you, that actually enrich your life.

Maria: And that’s really where I think mindfulness comes to play, where you have to figure out what’s enough, what’s essential to you, right? Remembering Marie Kondo’s decluttering methods, and she often talks about keeping those things that spark joy, right?

Jackie: Yeah. People joke about Marie Kondo, but I use her method and I love it.

Jackie: It works and it’s good. If something isn’t useful or brings you joy, why do you have it?

Maria: Obviously there’s some caveats there for some people that might have issues with, let’s say like depression or something. I think for them it’s really hard to figure out what sparks joy, right?

Maria: And then in the end you sit there with an empty apartment. But I think that this is another way where the mindfulness really is helpful and can bridge that gap to get that self-awareness and to explore how you feel and what brings value to your life, what helps you survive the day, let’s say if you have depression, for example.

Jackie: For sure. And a big part of mindfulness practices is letting go of your attachment to things. I think a lot of the things that we purchase we have attachment to for very superficial reasons that we just don’t think about.

Jackie: It just feels good to buy something or something feels like it’ll make us happier in the moment. But when we do those mindfulness practices, to curb your spending or get that in check or something, they can help you to see that and illuminate what’s really motivating you.

Jackie: And then, you won’t have that same urge to buy something. You won’t have that same need to reach out and gather things and make those purchases. Because you can see through what’s happening there. You can tell that it’s not something valuable to your core.

Maria: Yeah. Now, one of the flip sides of this is I think that we are seeing that corporations and society now because minimalism has become relatively popular since the early two thousands, has decided or has tried to almost attach consumerism back to minimalism, right?

Maria: We also see certain design choices and certain interior design or architecture or certain lifestyle choices that are now tied back again to some form of consumerism. Right? And I think that’s a little bit dangerous. One thing is those are not necessarily minimalism as intended because minimalism is very personal as well, right?

Maria: So it really depends on what are your things that are important to you and that enrich your life and not what some sort of trend or some sort of corporation tells you to. And that can lead to some things like if you look at some of the architecture or the interior design that is hailed as the minimalist perfection, you see a lot of, loss in detail like craftmanship and art and even just colors, right? . And I think that is something of a distortion of minimalism. Thinking about, especially details in art, those can be very mindfulness related. Creating these art pieces of furniture can be a form of mindfulness practice.

Maria: Enjoying them in your home. They can be enriching to you. If you think about things like Feng Shui or how your apartment is laid out or how certain things are presented. And if you look at nature, you would think, from looking at it that nature is not minimalist because you have essentially clutter everywhere. You have leaves, you have bushes growing wherever and I don’t know, animal droppings, things that do not appear minimalist or not cluttered, but realistically that’s not true because they have a function, they have some importance and they need to be there. Plus, if you think about art, I think , that really enriches people’s lives as well and their mental health. And so I think there’s kind of a flip side where that was a little bit distorted.

Jackie: For sure. Yeah, you definitely hit the nail in the head where it has to come from within.

Jackie: When you’re looking at these trends, like you said it kind of seems like the projection of minimalism is: ” strip all personality from the style”. And I think, it just comes to mindful consumerism, having a reason, having some story behind something. It’s making me think of Fight Club in the beginning when he’s got the Ikea apartment and it’s like he’s just got the showroom in his apartment. But like you were talking about artisan and artist works when you can purchase something that you know the story behind it, you know who created it, it reflects your community, or it reflects an experience that you had.

Jackie: Anytime you need to purchase something, you can go shopping locally and look at local artisans or local woodworkers and purchase something that reflects the community that you’re in.

Jackie: Or maybe it’s made from local materials, or maybe some artists that you can support by purchasing their work and decorating your home with that. And that to me is still that minimalism spirit. Where you’re not just mindlessly purchasing things. It has a purpose, it has a story, it helps someone, you know what it’s about. And your environment reflects that.

Maria: Yeah. And I think there’s, also something to be said about quality over quantity. So yes, you would be spending more money on something. You could look at that and say, this is consumerism, but on the other hand, it’s not because you’re not buying this over and over. Obviously not to discount people that cannot afford that.

Jackie: But you’re buying less stuff too. If you are investing in a really well made item, you can, make that investment and just buy less things, even though a few things that you buy might be more expensive, but they mean a little bit more.

Jackie: And you can always do it yourself too. That’s a whole other aspect. Mindful consumerism is, when you can make it yourself.

Maria: Yeah. Or repair things instead of throwing things away. Yeah. There’s also an aspect of community. You can share things for sure. So not everyone needs to own necessarily a big riding lawnmower.

Jackie: I love those tool libraries where communities have libraries where you can check out tools or different things that are expensive to invest in and you might only need now and then and you can just check ’em out and borrow ’em from your community.

Jackie: I love that. .

Maria: Yeah. But I think with any of this, that’s where you can be very mindful of. What does this bring to my life and how does this impact everyone else, not just me.

Jackie: Yeah, totally. Cause there’s that whole other side of it too, is that the garbage that we create or like what you said about fixing things and reusing things like when you do make a purchase thinking can this be recycled or reused or fixed if it breaks? Or is it just gonna be trash in the dump. You can think about that anytime that you buy anything. And also just keeping things outta the trash. What’s the life cycle of something?

Maria: Yeah. And I think there’s also something to be said about what we leave to our children and our loved ones. I know the Minimalists talked about inheritance and things you leave and the loved ones having to go through your possessions to figure out what to do with it.

Maria: Especially if it’s sentimental items. Now, not to discount sentimental items. And that’s, I think where you see the “spark joy”, but also all of your stuff, at some point someone will have to go through and figure out what to do with it. , right?

Jackie: Yeah, absolutely.

Jackie: You talk about leaving things to your kids though, I think about like the furniture that my grandparents have and it’s really robust and well made. And these like bookcases are real wood and ornate. And I think about a lot of the furniture, especially what I bought when I first moved out and it was made of cardboard and manufactured wood and it didn’t last more than a couple years.

Jackie: But the stuff that was made years ago, I feel like it’s gonna be around forever. It’s so well made.

Maria: It’s like solid wood and you can keep it for generations and that’s another thing if you buy, those sheep pieces of furniture? Yeah.

Maria: Who’s gonna want that after? And it’s just gonna fall apart. But then, It really also depends on your situation. If you can’t afford something made out of solid wood, then so be it. But then of course it’s a question, do you need two bookshelves or do you need one bookshelf? And that would even save you money then too? Especially if you cannot afford it you should be very specific about what you really need in your life and what you don’t.

Jackie: Yeah. Or buying secondhand. I feel like a lot of people they want everything new, but if you can shop at thrift stores or estate sales or ask your friends, ask on your Facebook groups for giving stuff away.

Jackie: Does anybody have a bookshelf?

Maria: There’s lots of groups online giving something away or the buy nothing groups or whatever they’re called. Yes. Locally, people give things away all the time. You can get things from your friends. We see this now with all the baby clothes and there’s really no reason to not utilize that. That’s a great opportunity. And yeah, definitely also secondhand shopping.

Jackie: It’s all ways to be more mindful when we’re purchasing things and acquiring items, but just having less stuff also just helps you be more mindful, there’s less distractions, less clutter. There’s a little more space to breathe when I have less stuff around me.

Maria: I have the same feeling, if it’s completely cluttered and unfortunately with the child, it is always cluttered. You have all these toys, even if you don’t intend to, it ends up being a lot. And I think I could probably get rid of at least half of all of the things because they’re not really used and they just lay around, used temporarily. And if they were gone, my kid would probably don’t even remember them.

Maria: And it does weigh on you. I feel that, mentally, that when I in my living room and there’s tons of stuff on the floor and toys everywhere and little things, and it just feels heavy. But I think it also depends what type it is and who. Because I think, I don’t know if my child feels the same way about the clutter, about her toys being everywhere.

Maria: Yeah. And we have to be mindful of that as well, especially when we live with more than one person, more than just with us. Yeah. Because my child may as well look at it and be like, ” This is great. I can see all my toys, wherever they are, I just walk around and find something new to play with and it’s wonderful”. how We go out in nature and find pinecones somewhere and it’s like, “oh, look at these awesome leaves over here”, or something like that. And I think it’s just, for me as a parent, I don’t play with those toys, so for me, they’re an uncomfortable clutter. Whereas for someone else it’s not.

Maria: And I think the same goes for like decorations. Like I have things that I found on the beach or I have little pieces from the woods or I have my plants here everywhere. And some people would probably think, “oh my God can you clean that up?”. Right? Yeah, so that’s where we come back to the mindfulness around what is essential to you, and also being mindful of your other members of your family and their preferences.

Maria: And then accepting that as well.

Jackie: Yeah. I think almost essential of any mindfulness practice is looking at the way that collect things or require things and what your environment is like around you.

Jackie: So I think everyone who really practices mindfulness comes to this juncture of, kinda looking around at their external environment and does it reflect that mindfulness practice? Does it reflect what they’re trying to cultivate and I think it’s something we all face on this path.

Maria: Right.

Maria: And not even only external, I think internal as well. Things like certain habits.

Jackie: Yeah, obviously like social media and the kinds of information you consume too.

Maria: Yeah. Food, beverages. Yeah. Alcohol, drugs, all these kind of things.

Jackie: Clothes, your appearance too.

Jackie: Everything.

Maria: I think that’s one thing that then also leads to looking at activities, things you do. Do you do more things that do not actually cost money, that do not feed into this consumerism and capitalism, right?

Maria: Spend time with people, spend time in nature.

Jackie: Yeah, absolutely. More experiences than tangible things. And those tend to stick in your mind so long too. They have such a greater impact.

Maria: Absolutely. But I think it also affects relationships. If you think about mindfulness and minimalism, looking at what is essential and what is not valuable I think you also start looking at some of your relationships and maybe people that are not bringing value to your life or are have a negative impact on you.

Maria: Or, if you just spend lots and lots of time with a lot of people and you feel maybe overwhelmed by that. So you’re focusing on the people that are important for you and that make you feel good.

Jackie: Yeah. Mindfulness practices are really gonna help bring to light how you value your resources and that’s your time, your money, everything that you exert effort towards. Having that insight from a mindfulness practice to understand, have that pause before you make a decision and to help you understand why you’re doing something or what the motivation is behind something, it changes how you consume everything. Everything that you that you choose to work toward.

Maria: Absolutely. Yeah. And if you think about things like eco minimalism, the whole “leave no trace” and how you deal with the environment and nature. That’s another big aspect, I think.

Jackie: Yeah. So we talked about a few resources of what can help you become more mindful consumer. We talked about Marie Kondo and like her. You can look for B Corps that are sustainable businesses and also shopping locally in artisans and local artists.

Maria: Yeah, some other resources are definitely the Minimalists. There’s also another site called Becoming Minimalist. Was talking about minimalism.

Jackie: I haven’t seen that.

Maria: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of resources.

Maria: Yeah. So going into

Jackie: this season, maybe avoiding some of the Black Friday or Cyber Monday stuff and maybe focusing more on spending time with people. And creating some memories.

Maria: Yeah, exactly.

Jackie: Being mindful of, everything that we consume this month. It’s a big month for consumption, isn’t it?

Maria: It is. All kinds of consumption.

Jackie: Yeah. I don’t know. It’s a difficult path, I think, even personally. I tried hard. I even moved into a tiny house and it’s still hard to be minimal. I’m still like bursting at the seams in places. Even though I know how good it feels, but it’s hard.

Maria: Absolutely.

Jackie: I think anytime I think my mindfulness practice gets away from me, I start to consume a little less healthily. Watching youTube or something, or just wasting my time or wasting my money.

Maria: Agreed. For me it’s mainly gifts I think for Christmas.

Jackie: It’s hard. It still feels good to give gifts and things .

Maria: There’s also ways to make gifts more minimalist or more mindful. If you think about where people say, ” Get rid of something if you got something new.”

Jackie: I don’t wanna say giving gifts or receiving gifts, that’s bad and you should just remove it from the whole season and like of course not. No.

Maria: Yeah. But as we said before, what kind of gifts, right? Can it be like an experience?

Maria: Like you get a zoo pass or something? I dunno. And definitely, handmade things and art and there’s definitely ways. But it’s also maybe freeing for people to say, “Hey, we don’t want any gifts.”

Jackie: I think I’m armed for the Christmas season.

Maria: I think so too, and I hope this discussion also helped our listeners. Think about some of those as you go into this holiday season.

Jackie: Yeah, and just continue your mindfulness practices and feel good about the choices that you make.

Maria: Right. Well, Thank you all for listening and hope to see you again next month. Where we will be talking about a book review again, always popular .

Jackie: Its a really good book.

Maria: Yes. So the book we were talking about is “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach. So definitely looking forward to this.

Maria: Hope to see you again then. If you are interested in our other episodes, please check out our website at becomingmindfulpodcast.com or follow us on social media @Becomingmindfulpodcast.

Jackie: Yes, and thanks for listening, and until next time, be well.

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